The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published new guidance for food and drink manufacturers, stating that clearer date labels should be used on food packaging to help cut waste, save shoppers money and make it easier for them to know when food is safe to eat.
Under the guidance, food packaging should only carry either a 'use-by' or 'best-before' date.
'Sell-by' and 'display-until' labels used for stock rotation should be removed to avoid confusion for shoppers, with retailers finding different ways of stock control.
The guidance for food producers outlines that 'use-by' labels should only be used where the food could be unsafe after that date. Most other foods should have a 'best-before' date only, to indicate when the food is no longer at its best, but is still safe to eat.
The guidance is also designed so the food industry can develop more detailed advice for their specific products that minimises confusion for consumers and food waste while keeping food safe.
The guidance was produced in consultation with the food manufacturers, supermarkets, trade associations, consumer groups, food law enforcement bodies and Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
At least 60% of the 8.3 million tonnes of UK household food and drink waste is avoidable. That is 5.3 million tonnes of perfectly edible food per year - the equivalent of £680 per household with children. WRAP research has identified confusion over date labelling as one of the causes of this.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
"We want to end the food labelling confusion and make it clear once and for all when food is good and safe to eat. This simpler and safer date labelling guide will help households cut down on the £12 billion worth of good food that ends up in the bin."